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“It’s Like a Boring Movie”: First Impressions of Mass Effect

by Lulu Mcgrew

masseffectAs I mentioned before, my Gamefly account kept recommending the 2007 game Mass Effect to me whenever I browsed, and as Gamefly cannot guarantee that you will get your top choice on your GameQ, and I really wanted Halo Wars, well, I got Mass Effect. And despite my disappointment over not receiving something a bit “fresher”, Mass Effect is growing on me, now that I finally got out of the “capitol” city and home world, the Citadel.

So, to begin at the beginning, let me lay a few things down before we go any further into my initial review of Mass Effect. I am not big into RPG’s, and truthfully, other than FPS games that lightly tread on RPG-style choices, I don’t think I have played a role playing game on the Xbox 360 since I’ve had it (August 2006). Also, I did not want to find out anything about Mass Effect before I jumped right in. No walkthroughs, no instructions on the keypads, and as I don’t have the accompanying literature with the game, I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. And I didn’t notice the option for the tutorial until late last night when I was shutting down, so yeah, nothing.

girl-shepherdOk, that said, the game has the choice of playing either a girl or boy version of the main protagonist, and as that made me so happy, I am playing the girl version of Commander Shepherd. I didn’t really follow much in the beginning as I was trying so darn hard to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing, but I got to do a little choosing when it comes to the background of my Commander Shepherd. I think I chose a past of no parents, raised on the streets and joined the service as soon as I could. Cliche! Not sure what bearing that past will have on my future in the game, but I’m willing to play along.

There is an attack on a human colony by these things called the Geth. The Geth are being led by a bad guy that Shepherd has to track down across the Universe. I have to say, at first, I was a little freaked out by having too many choices as to what to do and when, having “free will” as it were in a video game rather than being lead around by the ring in my nostrils. But seriously, after I got my own spaceship to explore the Universe while hunting for stuff to kill, this game is a lot better.

lost_in_translationLet me explain. Mass Effect starts pretty slowly, which is both good and bad. Good, because like I said, I was clueless; and bad because I was getting a little bored. In fact, my boyfriend was trying to take a nap on the couch and was concerned that I was firing up the Xbox (he hates the sound of gunfire when trying to sleep — very understandable). I said, “Don’t worry. This game is like a boring movie.”

And it is true. It’s more like a documentary about space exploration with some aliens here and there, and add a huge conspiracy to destroy humanity and yeah, that’s Mass Effect. It is not exactly non-stop action nor does it follow the small battle-puzzle-small battle-boss battle blueprint.

It’s help to be a little methodical in your playing style as you do have to cover territory and remember what you may have had to leave behind in terms of items because you don’t have enough experience in order to override computers or survey mineral finds or decrypt stuff. You know, all those things that come up while trying to save your race.

It’ll be nice when I finally get enough experience and “omni-gel” to crack safes and hack into door controls, but I am not one to find cheat codes, so it may be a while before this game really opens up to me. I am also thinking that Mass Effect may be a better game to own than to rent, as I have a feeling that I can really get lost in this game, kinda like Oblivion.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Xbox

by Lulu Mcgrew

systemerrore74As I am not one to spend too much time reading about every little thing, maybe I am a bit tardy in talking about the new and exciting development in Xbox 360 error codes: E74.

Amid all the hubbub over the infamous Red Ring of Death in the Xbox 360’s, the quiet little one-quadrant of death has received little attention. According to Joystiq, Microsoft is not aware of the problem…of course, they are not. At least until the public relations department can figure out how to handle this one.

So far, Xbox geeks (and I use that term lovingly) are thinking that the error is caused by an issue in the AV cord, but some are going so far as to say the problem lies internally with a loose chip in the HDMI models. Also, Joystiq has compiled some unofficial data sets to find that the number of E74 errors reported to them by readers after running an initial story about the E74 error, and the numbers seem to indicate that the occurrences of the E74 error have spiked since the launch of the New Xbox Experience (NXE). Engadget is polling their readers about E74 errors. And an inventive writer at Negative Gamer has been tracking google searches for E74, and the numbers have been rising since last last summer. Before August 2008, he found no searches. Here’s his graphic below.


And DWells55 is posting on both sites, claiming that the E74 error may be a sneaky trick by Microsoft to disguise the RROD.

Ah, Microsoft. They seem to be following the rule book of the FDA when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Just get it on the shelves, and worry about problems later.

If you’d like to learn more about this problem, I suggest checking out Joystiq. They are doing a great job following this through, and I like that site anyway, so you should check it out. I’d update my blogroll in this site, but I’m too busy playing games.

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The Mass Effect Conspiracy to Get Me to Play

by Lulu Mcgrew

masseffect2_desktop_02_350x263Alright, so yesterday BioWare (itself now a division of EA) announced the coming sequel, Mass Effect 2. And wouldn’t you know it, I just recently started playing Mass Effect (the first of a planned trilogy, so the sequel is hardly a surprise), as if I knew that I’d better get to it before the sequel does come out. Is it that I have a sixth sense for my gaming priorities based on upcoming releases of a game’s sequel or three-quel? No, I blame Gamefly.

Of course, I have Halo Wars on the tip-top of my Gamefly GameQ, but as the availability of that game is, like, impossible to get through the rental service that is too far away from me to give me a decent turn-around. So, the last time I updated my Q, I noticed that the service was giving me recommendations for games in which I may be interested. Mass Effect kept popping up as I was updating, so I clicked on it. I didn’t give it much of a read, however, relying more on the very high marks that Mass Effect had garnered from users and other reviewers on game sites. It was in the high 8’s, out of 10, and after a disappointing time with my last rental, Civilization Revolution, I was looking for something that scored high.

masseffect2_desktop_01_640x480Not that I place a lot of weight in user scores or even editor/reviewer scores, but hey, if the scores are really low and consistently low among other sites, I am prone to skip the game. If I somehow got a quicker turnaround on my Gamefly rentals, I’d probably be a little more adventurous when it comes to lame games. But it takes too damn long to get the game in the first place for me to dillydally around with crappy games.

Anyway, it seems the Universe wants me to play Mass Effect. First, it was high ratings, but then it became about getting the 2007 game played before the arrival of its Spring 2010 sequel.

BioWare says that Mass Effect 2 will be available for both the Xbox 360 and the PC platform. No word on the PS3, but the first ME was an Xbox-only deal until it went to PCs, so it’s likely that ME2 will also be Xbox-only (in terms of consoles). Although now that BioWare is owned by juggernaut Electronic Arts, there may be more pressure to go multi-platform (more sales potential).

So far, few details about the game are out there, other than Saren and the Geth are defeated and now humans face a bigger threat. Gee, thanks for that.

If you want to check out the fairly pointless teaser (I mean other than to tease), click here to go to the Mass Effect website.

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BioShock 2 Official First Look

by Lulu Mcgrew

bioshock-2-gi-coverHow excited I was today, upon opening the mailbox, to see the new Game Informer. And on the cover, BioShock 2.

To save you the trouble of either procuring the magazine or reading the lengthy first look article, I will try my best to summarize what changes we can expect in the highly-anticipated sequel to the somewhat anti-climatic (imo) BioShock.

If you read my review of Bioshock, you may have taken away from that a sense of my disappointment with Bioshock. It’s true, I may have been a bit harsh in comparing it to an actual Ayn Rand novel, and by that I mean to say the game was interminable and repetitious. But for three-quarters of the game I was really digging it. And yes, I had some gripes about some aspects of the game playing experience that I am happy to read are being addressed in the sequel.

First, the character you are is no longer Jack, but a Big Daddy — the first Big Daddy. As a Big Daddy, you now get to wield the power of that gentle giant/marauding monster, including that awesome big drill and the rivet gun.

The game’s designers tell GI that there will be more options for different styles of game play, by choosing certain plasmids and upgrades. I remember playing through BioShock 1, and frankly, by the end, I had way more ADAM and money than I knew what to do with. I blew through all the available plasmids and tonics well before the end, so the benefits of rehabilitating all those little girls were wasted after a while. That, and I found the best results with a trusty shotgun rather than the Cyclone Trap.

Even Little Sister gets a makeover...

Even Little Sister gets a makeover...

BioShock 2 also gives you a new relationship with the aforementioned Little Sisters. As a Big Daddy, these ADAM-wielding sweetie pies trust you and look to you for protection. You are a better Big Daddy with your Little Sister. You can now adopt them, after killing their original Big Daddy. The Little Sister then travels through Rapture with you, and she can harvest ADAM from “angels”. And when she does her work, you have to protect her from all those ADAM-hungry Splicers.

A welcome change in my eyes is the new ability to have both your “weapon” and your “plasmid” locked and loaded. Before you could only have one or the other on hand, which made some battles rather clumsy as you shot an electric bolt before putting you left hand down, raising your right while loading your gun or whatever weapon you needed. Oh, and your Big Daddy gets a flashlight on his helmet. Thank you!

Of course, like all FPS games, you have to have some “boss” fights. And I am not using the word boss as they did in the 80’s, but rather the trend in video games that includes chapters concluding with a battle against a bigger, badder baddie. I never found BioShock’s boss fights difficult, and I think the developers are addressing that, in the form of a major boss character, the Big Sister.

Big Sis (seen on the cover) is the present day (10 years after BioShock’s timeframe) guardian of the ruins of Rapture. Rapture kind of found its own equilibrium in the decade following the Little Sisters’ escape, and it’s all thanks to a Little Sister who decided to return and buff up, complete with a shiny new suit. You start screwing up her equilibrium, and she is going to get pissed off. And when she gets pissed off, she’s coming for you.

There is also going to be a multi-player option added to the game. Oh, and GI had also included the cover art as a promotional poster for BioShock 2. The game is expected to release this fall.

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Video Games Ad Space Put to Good Use: Halo Wars on BSG

by Lulu Mcgrew

hiddencylonsI don’t think it would be much of a stretch for anyone out there to believe that I am a fan of Battlestar Galactica (so say we all). And watching last night’s episode on SciFi HD, I finally watched the trailer for Halo Wars on a big HD screen, and let’s just say…like Wayland Smithers when a new Malibu Stacy comes out…I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it.

Especially after my recent disappointment with a strategy game involving other civilizations

This ad placement is no surprise, and a good example of putting your ad dollars to work for you. Kind of. I mean, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that a good percentage of BSG viewers are already hip to the Halo Wars fact. So one could say that those ad dollars are going to waste, and they could instead be targeting people that may not already be aware of and wanting Halo Wars. But then, you could make the case that by putting the ad on during a show that creates such fanaticism is a smart move, taking enthusiasm for one product and trying to connect it with another product that also involves planetary colonization. Either way, copies of Halo Wars will sell and sell well.

Afterall, it is not uncommon for BSG fans to share their love of both BSG and HALO in creative ways. This is from metacafe, and one of their members took Halo footage and added the BSG music. Cute.

Battlestar Halo 3 (edited Trailer) - A funny movie is a click away

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Civilization Revolution — Nothing Revolutionary About It on Xbox

by Lulu Mcgrew

civ-rev-coverI have just finished a full game of Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution. Overall, it is a big yawn, but I think I am totally jaded in that summation of the turn-based strategy game that has consumed many hours, days, weeks of my life since I discovered the darn game back in the 90’s. I also had my boyfriend play. He is a Civ newb, but skilled in strategy games (not as good as me, of course).

So, I am going to try and give you two reviews in one this time. One is from an addict that is losing her taste for the game, and the second from a beginner.

Honestly, I don’t see an experienced Civ player playing this game on an Xbox 360. It’s better on a PC, and easier to micro-manage which it what this game is all about. But for someone who has never played, I think that the Xbox version will be satisfying to those looking for a strategy game to play from time to time.

Ok, getting right into it. The game looks good, and I like the curved Earth aspect given in the graphics. Granted, I never did play Civilization IV, so maybe the shape of the globe was integrated into Civ at that point. All other Civ’s were very two-dimensional, so the third dimension was a nice treat. I just wish there were more new and improved game play aspects of which to also praise.

There are the usual suspects that are your playable civilizations, i.e. the English (Elizabeth looks frigid), the Russians (Catherine the Great is hot), the Mongols (my fav since the Vikings are no longer available), the Germans, the Chinese, the Indians, the Zulu, and even the classical civs like the Greeks (Alexander loves to toss his blond hair around) and the Romans. The Americans are represented by Lincoln and his theme music is straight out of Deliverance. Odd.

Anyway, you start off as a group of settlers, you build your capital, you make more settlers to build more cities, you want to build military units and destroy all the barbarians, before your fellow leaders turn on you and then you get to fight them off for the rest of the game. You can play super easy to super hard, depending on your level of experience. I played the first game on Chieftain (super easy) and it was so easy, I quit playing and switched to the medium level of King. Usually on the PC game, I find it impossible to survive on any level above King, as I am a warmonger and this game rewards peace.

When Chris played, he found it challenging and fun, although he did complain about the length of the game. This coming from a guy who can play Age of Empires II for six hours without a rest. He lost his first game on the Warlord setting. I don’t think he will lose again, as he was just figuring out the tricks of the trade before he was taken out. And that is one of the biggest problems with Civilization Revolution as a game to be played over and over — once you figure out how to win, it becomes more like a chore than a pleasure. The learning curve is rather shallow to put it another way.

civilization-revolution-military-advisor1One thing I absolutely HATED was the gibberish that my AI opponents and my ministers and advisors spoke to me. What is with that? You pay a writer to write, and he writes actual gibberish. At first, I thought it was a mistake, but I don’t think it was. I eventually turned down the volume on the voices, as they became uber-annoying.

The game play on the Xbox is not fundamentally different from the way it plays on the PC. The game moves for you, and you can use your right thumbstick to move around the “board”. You still have to fight military units one at a time, which has always driven me buggy in the PC game, but made me seethe on the Xbox. Chris also found this a dumb move on the developer’s part. What’s the point of building the biggest, most kickass army with naval and air support if none of them move together in any kind of cohesive master plan in order to make the most of each units individual strengths. It’s best to just have a lot of troops, so playing a smart tactical game is a non-issue for the most part.

One thing I did like as an improvement was the “Build Road” function. Instead of having to direct (or haphazardly automate) your workers to build a road, you can simply purchase one that runs between two cities. And other than the makeover for Catherine, I have nothing else to commend.

In all, I would say that Civilization Revolution was a phoned-in effort on the part of the development team at Firaxis. All they really did was gut the game enough to pare it down to a 3 or 4 hour game with little to no micromanagement needed. For some, that could be a good thing. For me, frankly, I am over my Civ addiction. Despite the innumerable sequels and supposed upgrades and additions to the original, that game is still the best of the bunch. Call to Power wasn’t bad. Civ III yawn, and Civ Rev — shh, Lulu’s sleeping.

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BioShock: More Like Ayn Rand Than Initially Thought

by Lulu Mcgrew
A new splicer for BioShock 2...The Old-timey Football Splicer!

A new splicer for BioShock 2...The Old-timey Football Splicer!

A little while ago, I finally started playing BioShock, a neat-o lookin’ game from 2K Games. It won some awards when it came out, and as Bioshock 2 is soon to be released, I thought it was time. I remember being pretty excited about it when the game first came out way back in 2007…

As I first wrote about Bioshock in my First Impressions category, I was amazed at the visuals of the City Under the Sea, Rapture, and the literary nerd in me was intrigued by BioShock’s use of Ayn Rand as an inspirational jumping off point. And at first, when I first started playing Jack, my first-person shooter I never get to see, I was happy and interested. I was engaged, much like reading Ayn Rand for the first time, but alas, that engagement turned sour by the time I reached the end.

I have to say the final battle in BioShock leaves a lot to be desired. And that is kind of how I feel about most of the “boss” battles of which there are few. Most of BioShock involves you running around looking for stuff to use to do stuff like mix chemicals and then take the new chemical compound somewhere else in order to do something with it. Maybe if I had listened to the many characters talking at me over the two-way radio I would have known what I was doing and why I was doing it rather than just running around and killing things.

bioshock-poster1Not that I’m bitching about killing things, but where at one time, I was following the story and into the plot, by the end of the game, I totally didn’t care anymore and went around on autopilot, saving Little Sisters and taking out the four varieties of Splicers as well as the Big Daddies, before becoming one myself. Which I guess it a one-way journey, and saving little girls from genetic engineering is more important than me/Jack returning to normal society ever again.

And I was so sick of hacking things…I started blowing everything up rather than hack them, missing out on the assistance of hacked security bots and turrets, but not caring as the hacking is tedious and relatively unrewarding. Also, there is an actual cut-off point for money. Once you hit $500, your “wallet is full.” Huh?

The ending kind of reminded of Dead Space in that the person you think is on your side turns out to be a major douchebag, except in Dead Space it made sense, whereas in BioShock, it’s a guy who’s motivations for screwing you over are not quite clear. Something about implanted memories or a “sleeper agent” — I don’t know, nor did I care by then.

All in all, Bioshock was fun for the first 8 hours or so. Just like Atlas Shrugged

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My Quest for RTS on the Xbox 360: Halo Wars and Stormrise

by Lulu Mcgrew

When I was 17, I started playing a game called Civilization. The first time I saw the sun rise after an all-nighter, I knew I was hooked. I have met others afflicted with this addiction to strategy games, both turn-based and real-time.

Halo Wars comes out March 3

Halo Wars comes out March 3

That said, I have yet to try out a turn-based strategy or a Real Time Strategy game out on a next-gen console like the Xbox 360. The problem with RTS games is that for the most part these types of games are war games, like Empire Earth or any number of WWII games. Why are so many RTS games war and military conquest games? I don’t know, they just are, probably because most gamers are dorks that got beat up a lot in high school and they grew up dreaming of some grand scheme of taking over the world to compensate for those feelings of masculine insecurity or maybe they are control freaks like me. Either way, the games are fun, if not tedious after a while. I just wish that would be enough to get me to kick my habit…

...Stormrise comes out March 26

...Stormrise comes out March 26

So, now that we have established that a lot of RTS/TBS games are war games, you will notice that war games involves many troops and equipment. With a PC RTS game, your keyboard and mouse are your weapons. You’ve got hot keys and menus, and your hand-eye coordination with the mouse is much easier to control precisely than a thumbstick on a console’s controller. And those are just a few reasons that RTS games have had such a slow influx into console games. Console games are mostly better at controlling one character, not whole armies of them…Mostly.

Still looks like Civ...

Still looks like Civ...

However, with the upcoming release of Halo Wars next week, I am intrigued enough to start exploring games on my Xbox 360 previously best served on a PC. In addition to the hugely popular Halo franchise’s foray into RTS gaming, Stormrise is coming out next month. Oh, yeah, and speaking of the Civ series, Civilization: Revolution for the Xbox 360 just came out a few months ago. There’s the Commander and Conquer series to check out, and well, there are a lot of these RTS games as of late.

My findings on this topic will be revisited in the future. Halo Wars is at the top of my Gamefly Q, and Civ: Rev is at #3.

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Totally Off-Topic or Is it? Wii May Be Worth a Look Soon

by Lulu Mcgrew
The only acceptable reason for having a Wii...

The only acceptable reason for having a Wii...

There are many reasons that I just don’t care about owning a Nintendo Wii. One of those being that when I am in the mood to play video games, almost invariably I am also in the mood to lie prone on my comfy, comfy couch or in my comfy, comfy rocking chair. So playing a game designed for the Wii doesn’t really fit into that lifestyle choice. A friend tried selling me on the Wii by telling me about the tennis game and golfing. My response was that if I want to play tennis or golf, I will go to a tennis court or a golf course. Maybe it is a generational thing or a girl thing or a real active person versus inactive people that need to have a video game motivate them to exercise, I don’t know. Nor do I really care to delve into this issue for too terribly long.

But reason number two, and a much more compelling reason ultimately, is that I have little inclination to play most of the games designed for the Wii. I hate to say it, but the games all seem like little kid games for the most part. I like games with swear words.

However, two games are being redesigned for the Wii from Xbox360 (PS3/PC) games that may grow into a trend for more adult games coming to the Wii. Will I get a Wii? Not soon, as I am already an addict and I have to cut back on my gaming schedule as it is due to grad school, so getting a new crack machine is not in the cards for me for another year or so. But I wouldn’t mind playing these games when they come out.

Dead Rising for the Wii — Just came out late January 2009

And I thought smashing zombies was fun with thumbsticks…

Dead Space for the Wii…This one is coming out later this year, but I had fun playing it on the Xbox 360 and wouldn’t mind playing a prequel in which my killer slicer-shot would come in handy.

During Electronic Arts’ Q3 2009 earnings call earlier today, boss John Riccitiello mentioned a Wii game we’d previously not heard about. That game was Dead Space Wii.

It’s due out later this year, and is part of a plan from EA to bring a more “core” experiece to the Wii. Riccitiello promises that, despite the technical limitations of the console, everything that made the 360/PS3/PC version so creepy will be there on the Wii. — Kotaku

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In Defense of the Xbox 360

by Lulu Mcgrew

I ran across a title to an article in the St. Louis Dispatch.

“The Xbox 360 is the worst video game console in the world”

I am a little surprised the author didn’t claim it’s the worst in the galaxy or the universe. I mean, if you are going for drama, why not go big or go home, right? Worst video game console in the world? He’s got to be kidding. So, yes, I read the article.

rrod-freakoutUnfortunately, the author, the Game Guy aka David Sheets, makes a good case…if he were talking hardware only. Yes, the actual console in terms of hardware can be a piece of sh*t.

How many times has your Xbox 360 died? The Game Guy has had four 360’s, and all of them have died. I almost want to ask him if he is performing “gamicide” on purpose to make his point, but when I think about the first four Xbox 360-owning friends that come to mind, three of them have also experienced the RROD. Add me into that equation and that’s an 80% failure rate. Seems a bit higher than Microsoft’s 3%.

Although the Game Guy has a point about hardware failure, his tone throughout his article is one of pure disdain for the system as a whole. He claims that he plays it not by choice, but “out of necessity” because of his horrible job as a game and gear reviewer.

To the St. Louis Dispatch: I will be more than happy to take the Game Guy’s position. I love all games, and I don’t hold any grudges against any system. I will never complain because you are forcing me to play the Xbox 360. Nor will I write such over-dramatic op-ed pieces.

Back to the Game Guy…In defense of the Xbox 360, Microsoft gladly, no-questions-asked fixed my 360. Sure, I had to wait 2 weeks between packing it up in the supplied box and receiving it back from an commiserating UPS guy, but that’s what I have a PC for. And you know, I could always go outside for a walk or read a book while on my gaming hiatus. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

halo_3_final_boxshotAlthough I understand the Game Guy’s frustration with the hardware problems with the Xbox 360, I cannot agree with his summation that the Xbox 360 is the worst console in the world. If you consider the ease of playing Live, and the awe-inspiring graphics, as well as the convenience of the Xbox marketplace, as well as the calibre of games designed solely for the Xbox 360, well, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

The Xbox plays hard and it breaks hard. I’ve had much more problems with my damn Dell, and at least when my Xbox did break, I didn’t have to spend five hours on the phone with India trying to explain to them that no, they didn’t fix my motherboard…again.

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BioShock First Impressions: Ayn Rand Under the Sea

by Lulu Mcgrew

Not one of the reviews I read for Bioshock said anything at all about how the undersea world of Rapture is straight out of an unwritten Ayn Rand novel. Does this mean that gamers don’t read American lit?

What the Great Lighthouse may have looked like before earthquakes destroyed it...

What the Great Lighthouse may have looked like before earthquakes destroyed it...

It’s not like it’s a stretch to see the Rand influence. You notice the literary reference almost immediately, if you know your Rand. Unfortunately, I know Ms. Rand’s rants. As soon as I swam my way to a Great Lighthouse at Alexandria look-a-like after my Pan Am hit crashed into the sea, I came face to face with a large red banner that proclaims “Not Gods or Kings. Only Men.” and a plaque from someone named Ryan going on about how he could not live in a state that won’t allow him to be himself…an unapologetic capitalist.

Ryan…R-Y-A-N = Ayn R. Yeah, subtle.

First things first, BIOSHOCK is amazing to look at. The opening sequence is awe-inspiring. I kept telling my boyfriend to “look-it, look-it” as the bathysphere gave me an unguided tour of Rapture, a city-behind-the-waves (and international law). The city itself is an Art Deco dream. I happen to be a fan of Deco, so BioShock is a total treat for my aesthetic sensitivities. Even as you peer out of the glass windows, the graphics go all watery and change as you move your perspective. The designers and programmers spared no effort to make this game a detail-oriented gamers delight.

And then, as you, er, I mean, Jack enters the city proper, he is lead on missions by a underground resistance leader named Atlas.

atlasshruggedAtlas…Like Atlas Shrugged? To be honest, I couldn’t finish Atlas Shrugged. I read The Fountainhead, and got through the Ellsworth Toohey 30-page speech about altruism, and when I ran across the same diatribe in Atlas Shrugged, courtesy of John Galt; well, I just closed up the book and gave it away. Rand is not hard to read as in she discusses difficult issues and uses hard words; no, Rand is difficult to read because there is a lot of repetition and it gets really, really boring.

Besides, she is such a response to perceived socialist agendas during the 40’s, that it comes across as somewhat silly…until you place BioShock’s politics into the present fears of an American return to a quasi-socialistic Big Government. But that is probably more of a coincidence than the creators’ statement on capitalism and how money makes morals.

But I digress…

And now that I am in the third “level” of BioShock, I can say that the game takes its cues from Rand in more ways than one. BioShock can get a little repetitious, too. I can honestly say that I am sick of hacking security “bots”, vending machines, and safes. At first, it was kind of fun, but now I try to get as many auto-hack tools as I can find or build with rubber hoses and random screws.

bioshock_3All in all, I love the plot. I like killing the “splicers” (though I do wish for a little more diversity in these crazed foes) and random other bots and Big Daddy’s. I even like rescuing the little sisters — I haven’t “harvested” one yet. It’s just hard for me to kill a child, even if she carries a giant syringe that she likes to plunge into her victims’ heads.

I am actually playing BioShock on both easy and medium (whatever they call it in the game). So far, easy just means less bad guys and more first aid kits to find. But as your character never really dies in BioShock (you are immediately revived at a near-by “vita-chamber” and everything remains as it was when you “died” including a lack of first aid kits and angry enemies), I think the medium is a better choice for anyone other than a newbie to FPS games.

Much like Dead Space, you are given objectives and maps as to what you are supposed to be doing in Rapture. You also have an option of a “hint” to help you along the way, as an example telling you where certain slicers are located when you have to get some research photos (which reminds me of Dead Rising). I can say that the game is self-contained enough that I have not even bothered to look up a walkthrough or cheats for BioShock. Not that it is that easy (it kinda is, though), but rather that the game makes sense as to how to play it. Unlike say, Tomb Raider: Legend

And yes, I know that BioShock is a bit old now in terms of release date, but I had to get to it before BioShock 2 comes out later this year.

I love this trailer, because it tells me all evil comes from little girls! He he he.

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Do You Like Flight Simulators? And Getting Caught in the Rain?

by Lulu Mcgrew

Yeah, that title only makes sense if you sing it to the tune of “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)“. And what’s the deal with that song anyway? A married couple each discover that the other wants to cheat because they are bored. It seems like such an upbeat song, but I just hope those two don’t have kids.


Whew, where was I? Oh, yeah, if you are a fan of flight combat games, you may want to get your ol’ 360 fired up around 5am EST/2am PST tonight/this morning (Feb. 11). The demo for Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. is being released for Xbox Live Gold members. Those goldies, they get everything first…

Personally, I’m not into flight simulator games, but checking out a demo is always fun. And who knows, I might just like it enough to play the real thing when it comes out on March 6th. I doubt it, because there are like a million other games I’m sure I’d rather play, but you never know.

tomclancyshawx_10aThe demo is Xbox 360 exclusive…for one day. The HAWX demo is available on PSN February 12th.

The demo includes two missions. One’s a training mission, appropriately enough. The second involves shooting planes down over Rio de Janeiro. You can even play co-op for 4 people, if you happen to have three friends.

The full game will include 17 missions, and if you are not great at flight sims, you may be in luck. Supposedly, Tom Clancy’s HAWX has training-wheels for those that are not thumb-joystick-capable. Some guy who wrote a pre-review of HAWX last summer mentioned that the game is more combat-centric, rather than flight simulator-oriented, which could be good or bad depending on how you like your flying airplane games.

And to leave you on a “ah, precious” note today…

From deviantART's Ricepuppet

From deviantART's Ricepuppet

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Dead Space: The Final Review

by Lulu Mcgrew


Dead Space is Event Horizon crossed with Aliens, crossed with Solaris, and then add a little This Old House, and you got yourself a pretty fun 15 hours worth of game. I’m sure others will play this game faster than me, but I tend to let Isaac stand around while I take little snack breaks.

So, you are an engineer that is sent on a repair job, as the USG Ishimura has lost all communications. Why would anyone ever think that something as heinous as what has happened aboard the Ishimura would ever happen, right? So sure, send the engineers rather than the marines. And that is just the first disadvantage that you face as your ship crashes into the Ishimura, stranding you and two others (your captain and the science officer or whatever she is) aboard a ship full of corpses…some of which aren’t truly dead.

dead-space-dismemberPersonally, I adore games in which I get to kill copious amounts of zombies. I mean, if I didn’t kill them, they’d kill me and everyone I care about, and they are dead already, so no harm in finding a little joy in their dismemberment. And that is the key to Dead Space. You find out pretty quickly that these “necromorphs” that constantly pop out at you will only go down once you have hacked off enough limbs — or the one magic limb that will do the trick, but as there are usually three or more limbs, good luck figuring out what the magic limb is before the damn thing kills you.

I am not going to give away too much in this review, as I would hate to be the one who spoils a good, though somewhat predictable, storyline. It is a linear time-line, with a ticking clock aspect that adds some excitement. I can tell you that as Isaac, you are mostly wandering around the ship trying to fix certain systems that at first let you know how badly off you are on board the Ishimura, and then offer you the possibility of escape.

Dead Space makes it easy for you to navigate the ship and your objectives. You have a suit, called a rig, that allows you to check out maps of the ship, in addition to a right stick click option that points you in the right direction following a blue line that lights up rather like a GPS unit. It helps to pay attention to the other characters that guide you along the way, as they often give you advice on how to solve certain puzzles by way of repairwork. If you don’t pay attention, like me, you can bring up you rig’s handy view screen to read Isaac’s take on his objectives.

dead-space-necroI will admit that I used the cheat codes to recharge my oxygen when outside the ship, scurrying around the broken hull (while paused X,X,Y,Y,Y). I also used the cheat for recharging my stasis (used to freeze things enough to make them move in super slo-mo in order to kill them more easily) and kinesis (which helps move large objects around, as well as pick up useful items to hurl at necromorphs) units (while paused X,Y,Y,X,Y). The use of these cheats is not necessary, as you can purchase or find packs around the ship that will recharge the aforementioned tank and units for you. But you can only carry so many items with you and “stores” where you can either buy or sell items are few and far between, so if I can lighten my load so as to be able to carry more health packs or lucrative items, then yes, I am a cheater.

deadspace-planet-shotAnd that is another thing that I liked about Dead Space. Some games reward you (?) with higher scores if you run around, knocking on every door in order to find stuff. In Dead Space, the more stuff you find, the more stuff you can sell to the store in order to buy “power nodes”, which in turn allow Isaac to upgrade his rig and his weapons. There is a true purpose to enter rooms that have no real bearing on the game — to find booty.

Dead Space ends in a way that is conducive to a sequel, which I will totally be down for, as I really like the sci fi survival horror genre. Also, I like the rather practical way the game plays out. Something is broken, you must fix it, and oh, yeah, there are lots of things that want to rip your head off.

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One of 1.8 Million and I Feel So Special: RE5 Demo Downloaded

by Lulu Mcgrew

resident-evilResident Evil 5’s demo came out exclusively on Xbox Live last week. I got my download on Friday, and didn’t get to playing it until Saturday. Well, I wasn’t the only one. Numbers came out and it seems that almost 2 million Xbox Live users downloaded the ultra-violent, yet ever-so-much fun demo for the long awaited RE5.

I have not played a Resident Evil on the Xbox yet, so it was a treat to test it out on a 360. The demo gives you little or no info — or maybe it did and I was too busy killing zombies to notice — as to who you are or what you are doing there, but you can figure it out if you know anything about the Resident Evil franchise.

re5-screenshot-1Hey, what do you know, seems I’m playing a character that you may already know and love, Chris Redfield. I have a new partner, and she is a hottie-ass-kicking zombie slayer named Sheva Alomar. I read somewhere that when the creators first started showing betas of this game, it came to someone’s attention that Chris was killing a bunch of black people in Africa and maybe that wasn’t so cool in this current political climate (or any for that matter). So the solution was adding a black-ish female partner. And who says video games don’t strive for equality? I wonder if Sheva is earning the same as Chris.

I have only played the single player portion of the demo, as my boyfriend doesn’t like playing shooter games (something about running around and looking for hidden stuff annoys him, no matter how many zombies are involved — I think it’s because he just can’t get the hang of it and he has a short attention span for any games other than sports). There is a co-op option, which I am going to play as soon as I make a friend to play against.

resident-evil-5-executionerThere are two scenarios: Public Assembly and Shanty Town. In Public Assembly, you and Sheva are outside one of those African towns that looks like it could have been a stand-in during Black Hawk Down. Once you get in a seemingly safe building, you witness a public beheading of someone who doesn’t quite get the respect he needs in this town in which everyone is going cra-zay. This huge hooded executioner swings this huge, serrated axe, and then of course, someone spots you. Now, you have all these zombies coming at you.

resident-evil-5-revolutionary-bossI went to the Public Assembly first, and I didn’t last that long. I couldn’t get used to the switch up from A’s to X’s for picking up ammo. Also, you cannot pull your left trigger to aim without standing still or moving really, really slowly, so it’s hard to run and shoot, but then you only have so much ammo, so it wouldn’t do you much good to run around shooting up the place. It’s pretty hard, which of course, makes me love it even more (wink).

Shanty Town is more running around and killing these poor souls that have undergone the “change.” But I lasted longer, although I do think that the demo is totally designed to kick your ass rather quickly, so you don’t start grumbling about it being a short demo more than you suck. But hey, it’s just a taste, and you are definitely going to want more.

It looks amazing, just like RE4. It’s totally fun and addictive and I cannot wait for March 13th.

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My New Xbox Experience: Day One

by Lulu Mcgrew

So, I finally plugged in my internet connection to my Xbox. Not that I never have before, it’s just that my router is in the office and the HDTV is in the living room, and I don’t want a damn cord running through the entire house, and I haven’t got off my lazy butt to get a wireless adapter for my Xbox 360 because truthfully, I don’t go online that often with my Xbox.

Not often at all…

Which means that tonight was finally the night when I upgraded my dashboard on the ol’ 360 (among other things). I am sure that I haven’t spent enough time on it to see how awesomely awesome it is, but what is the big deal?

I think the whole Netflix thing is nice, and I imagine I will love it. As I mentioned before, I am not on Xbox Live all that much to make that a big draw for me, but then again, maybe it will be a good reason to log in more often. It does get tiring to have to hook up my laptop to the tv to watch something instantly on Netflix, but still, It’s not like it’s that hard. I’ll live.

myavatarOther than that, I am not big into keeping a bunch of pictures and music on yet another hard drive, so that option does nothing for me.

I do have a kickass avatar, but I don’t know when she’ll ever come into use. Don’t you just dig her warrior scar and black (I hope they are rubber) gloves? Unless I am missing something, I don’t think the avatars get to play in, say, Tomb Raider, so yeah, what’s the point. I like my little panda icon. Isn’t that enough?

I know I must sound like a troglodyte to some of you, but seriously, I like to play video games. I don’t care if someone else plays with me or not. So other than downloading stuff, I have little need for Xbox Live. And that’s too bad, because my dress is so cute.

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